Shakespeare’s suppliants : the ‘rotten custom’ of ancient asylum seeking in Coriolanus

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2022
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Classical Receptions Journal. Oxford University Press. 2022, 14(1), pp. 1-25. ISSN 1759-5134. eISSN 1759-5142. Available under: doi: 10.1093/crj/clab010
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Looking back to the early modern period from the current immigration crisis, this article reads Shakespeare’s tragedy Coriolanus as a tragedy of displacement and asylum seeking. It argues that just like theatrical productions today, Shakespeare might have harked back to ancient Greek tragedy as a cultural resource for coming to terms with the challenges of immigration. It traces the possible migrations between the ritual of asylum seeking that was reflected in a number of Greek tragedies including Aeschylus’s Hiketides, the earliest surviving play about refugees from the fifth century BC, and Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. In this respect, this article is part of the current critical re-evaluation of the relations between Shakespeare’s work and ancient Greek tragedy. It places Coriolanus into the intertextual and intermedial hiketeia rhizome, in which one transmission line from Greek tragedy via Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Plutarch, Amyot, and North to Shakespeare can be corroborated by evidence, while other lines are more uncertain. Asking whether hiketeia, the ancient verbal and gestural repertoire of a stranger pleading for protection and integration into the polis, is only present as ‘rotten custom’ in Shakespeare’s tragedy, as a trace of cultural history without any considerable force in the new context, the article explores the paradoxical negotiation of displacement in Coriolanus, where both the exiled and the exiler become suppliants. It proposes that Shakespeare’s transformative reactivation of hiketeia as a theatrically, affectively, and politically potent form created an opportunity to negotiate the immigration crisis in Jacobean England.

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800 Literatur, Rhetorik, Literaturwissenschaft
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ISO 690WALD, Christina, 2022. Shakespeare’s suppliants : the ‘rotten custom’ of ancient asylum seeking in Coriolanus. In: Classical Receptions Journal. Oxford University Press. 2022, 14(1), pp. 1-25. ISSN 1759-5134. eISSN 1759-5142. Available under: doi: 10.1093/crj/clab010
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@article{Wald2022Shake-54959,
  year={2022},
  doi={10.1093/crj/clab010},
  title={Shakespeare’s suppliants : the ‘rotten custom’ of ancient asylum seeking in Coriolanus},
  number={1},
  volume={14},
  issn={1759-5134},
  journal={Classical Receptions Journal},
  pages={1--25},
  author={Wald, Christina}
}
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    <dcterms:abstract xml:lang="eng">Looking back to the early modern period from the current immigration crisis, this article reads Shakespeare’s tragedy Coriolanus as a tragedy of displacement and asylum seeking. It argues that just like theatrical productions today, Shakespeare might have harked back to ancient Greek tragedy as a cultural resource for coming to terms with the challenges of immigration. It traces the possible migrations between the ritual of asylum seeking that was reflected in a number of Greek tragedies including Aeschylus’s Hiketides, the earliest surviving play about refugees from the fifth century BC, and Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. In this respect, this article is part of the current critical re-evaluation of the relations between Shakespeare’s work and ancient Greek tragedy. It places Coriolanus into the intertextual and intermedial hiketeia rhizome, in which one transmission line from Greek tragedy via Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Plutarch, Amyot, and North to Shakespeare can be corroborated by evidence, while other lines are more uncertain. Asking whether hiketeia, the ancient verbal and gestural repertoire of a stranger pleading for protection and integration into the polis, is only present as ‘rotten custom’ in Shakespeare’s tragedy, as a trace of cultural history without any considerable force in the new context, the article explores the paradoxical negotiation of displacement in Coriolanus, where both the exiled and the exiler become suppliants. It proposes that Shakespeare’s transformative reactivation of hiketeia as a theatrically, affectively, and politically potent form created an opportunity to negotiate the immigration crisis in Jacobean England.</dcterms:abstract>
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